San Diego, CA: Running My 1st Half Marathon

 Greetings from San Diego!

Greetings from San Diego!

Dates Traveled: 10/28/17 - 10/30/17

Hello, friends!

It has been a very, very long time since written a post (the last one I posted was from December - eek!). I apologize for the seven month long unintentional hiatus but I definitely needed the time to sort out a few things.

As you can imagine, a lot can happen in seven months - I got engaged to person of my dreams, started a new job and, most notably, I am going back to school! After some deliberation, and with the support of my family and friends, I have decided to pursue a degree in Nutritional Sciences in hopes of becoming a Registered Dietitian.

With all this change going on, I feel like I have lost touch with things I normally enjoy doing, such as working out. It has become increasingly harder for me to find pockets of time to do the things that bring me joy and even if I have the time, I am usually too exhausted to do them! It is a very vicious cycle as you can see. But July has given me the break I badly needed - I am only taking one class and work has lightened up tremendously - so I am finding the time and energy to #treatyoself.

I took advantage of this glorious summer break to go for a run this morning and it reminded me of how much I love running! Running had become a way to deal with my anxiety and was something I looked forward to at the end of a long day. I loved it so much that I ran my first half marathon in San Diego last October!

 Crossing the finish line!

Crossing the finish line!

I ran the Kaiser Permanente THRIVE Half Marathon to raise money and awareness for Headstrong Project. Headstrong is a nonprofit that provides free, confidential mental healthcare to post-9/11 veterans. As someone who’s dealt with anxiety and depression, I know how unbelievably helpful treatment can be. Thank you to all the amazing people you donated to this cause! Together we were able to donate $900 and help better the life of a brave veteran.

Training for the half marathon was a real test of self discipline. I relied heavily on the Nike Run Club’s 18 week program and ran at least three times a week, averaging about 15 miles per week. Towards the end of the program, I was running 10 miles at a time which was just as mentally challenging as it was physically. On race day, I was a ball of nerves beforehand. But once the race started, I was in my zone and ready to go! In all honesty, it didn’t hit me that I was running a half marathon until I hit Mile 11. After 2 hours and 28 minutes of running my heart out, I made it to the finish line to find Tejinder standing there with arguably the best sign possible.

 Now let's get pancakes!

Now let's get pancakes!

After laying on the grass and recharging for a bit, we made our way back to our hotel, the Bahia Resort, for a well deserved nap. I did, after all, wake up at 5 AM for the race! After napping for a solid hour or so, Tejinder woke me up and took me to Richard Walker's Pancake House to fulfill his promise of getting me pancakes after the race. And because I just wanted all the carbs at that point. I enjoyed a steaming plate of buckwheat pancakes and a frothy cup of hot cocoa. The staff at Richard Walker’s was as amazing as the food.  They congratulated me on finishing the race and yes, I wore my medal all weekend. 

Once my stomach was filled with delicious pancakes, we decided to head over to Balboa Park for some sightseeing.  We started at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, then made our way down El Prado, stopping by the pond in front of the Botanical Building and enjoyed watching a magician in front of the Museum of Photographic Art, before finding a spot to sit near the fountain by the Fleet Science Center. It was an absolutely stunning day in San Diego and we enjoyed slowly, very slowly, walking through the park and watching all the attractions. I highly recommend paying a visit if you’re in the San Diego area.

 The pond in front of the Botanical Building

The pond in front of the Botanical Building

 Flashing my medal in front of the Fleet Science Center fountain!

Flashing my medal in front of the Fleet Science Center fountain!

The next day, I was pretty sore still but was feeling adventurous so Tejinder and I decided to rent a couple of beach cruisers and bike around Pacific Beach. We biked down Ocean Front Walk until we hit South Mission Beach before turning around and biking to the Pacific Beach Pier. Since it was Monday, the esplanade and beach were so quiet - it felt like we had to whole place to ourselves. By this time, we were getting a bit hungry so we stopped by Crushed on Garnet for some flatbread pizza because, of course pizza. After filling up on cheesy goodness, we somehow managed to find ourselves on the Bayside Walk. We slowly biked along the bay, enjoying the quirky and cute houses along the walkway and taking in the salty air. By the time we made it back to our hotel to return the bikes, it was time to catch our flight back to San Francisco.

 View from the Pacific Beach Pier

View from the Pacific Beach Pier

 Enjoying the sites along Ocean Front Walk

Enjoying the sites along Ocean Front Walk

 Pacific Pier pitstop

Pacific Pier pitstop

Our short trip to San Diego serves as a constant reminder of two important of things:

1) I love traveling with Tejinder. We have so much fun together even if it just sitting in front of a fountain because I am too sore to walk. He gives me so much energy and his support during the best and worst of times is invaluable. During the last mile and half of the race, I saw him walking to the finish line and called out his name. Just seeing his face smiling at me as I was running up the steepest hill of the race gave me the boost I needed to finish strong!

2) You CAN accomplish anything you set your mind to. There were times during training that I felt like I couldn’t do it and was ready to throw in the towel. But I pushed past those negative thoughts and preserved. And now I have a beautiful shiny medal hanging by my desk to remind me that I can do anything I set my mind to whether that is getting an A on my midterm or finding time to enjoy the things I once loved. You. Can. Do. It.

Now that the race is done, I can focus on my next challenge - school. I hope my story inspires you to push through whatever journey you are on. Remember that you are capable of so much more than you can imagine. Also, remember to take the time to love yourself! Find the time to do your nails, bake cookies, go for a run, whatever it is that makes you happy. Because what’s the point of doing it all if you aren’t having fun!?


Until next time (which hopefully is sooner than seven months),

xoxo, EK

Japan 2017

 Greetings from Japan!

Greetings from Japan!

Dates Traveled: 10/7/17 – 10/14/17

While we were watching our last sunset in Kauai a year ago, Tejinder turned to me and asked “So, where to next?” which is usually how we start scheming our next adventure. A couple of destinations were tossed around before the idea of Japan was brought up. Tejinder wanted an international trip and I wanted to eat good food so Japan felt like a perfect fit!

But the universe had other plans. We planned our itinerary, set aside a budget, and were ready to press go in August when time was not in our favor. With our heads hung low, we shelfed our itinerary for another time. It wasn’t until months later that we decided on a trip to Canada for Tejinder’s birthday in October when the idea of Japan came back into the picture. Air Canada was having a crazy sale on tickets to Japan and we just couldn’t pass it up. And just like that, we dusted off our travel plans and booked our tickets!

A week is not nearly enough time to see and experience everything Japan offers but Tejinder and I managed to check out 4 cities – Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka.  Our week-long whirlwind of shrine-hopping, noodle-slurping, and tea-drinking was one definitely one for books and I’m so excited to share our trip with you!

TOKYO

 Seafood yakatori

Seafood yakatori

Tsukiji Market

On our first morning in Tokyo, we stopped by Tsukiji Market for some fresh fish on a stick. The market is made up of a series of corridors filled with seafood vendors and shops. Think: the Japanese version of Pike Place Market, but less fish throwing. Name a kind of seafood and I can guarantee you’d find the fresh, cooked, and dried version of it at the Tsukiji Market. I highly recommend munching on seafood yakatori or as I kept calling it, fish on a stick. You can find veggie + fish patties, fried shrimp, grilled octopus, and so much more for sale throughout the market.

 

Zojoji Temple

This temple might be hard to miss because it sits under the shadows of the Tokyo Tower but save your hassle of the crowds at Tokyo Tower and go straight to Zojoji Temple right across the street. Being that it is the main temple in the Shiba neighborhood, the temple and it’s grounds is massive and is made even more picturesque with the tower behind it.

 Zozoji Temple + Tokyo Tower

Zozoji Temple + Tokyo Tower

 

Hama-rikyu Gardens

A public park on the Tokyo Bay, Hama-rikyu Garden is a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The center of the landscaped garden is filled with peony gardens, plum trees, and flower fields. Be sure to stop by the Nakajima-no-ochaya tea house for matcha tea and a sweet dessert while taking in the gorgeous views of Shioiri Lake.

 Views of Shioiri Lake from the tea house

Views of Shioiri Lake from the tea house

 Flower fields in Hama-rikyu Gardens

Flower fields in Hama-rikyu Gardens

 

Yoyogi Park

If you need a place to walk off an udon-induced food baby, look no further than Yoyogi Park. The big, beautiful park provides paved walkways for families and tourists to wander among the towering trees. The pathways are so wide because Yoyogi Park was the main athletes village during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was converted into a park shortly after in 1967.

 Walking through Yoyogi Park

Walking through Yoyogi Park

 Selfie infront of the gates of Yoyogi Park

Selfie infront of the gates of Yoyogi Park

 

Shin Udon

After all this exploring, you need to refuel with a hot bowl of udon and the best, most delicious place to do that is at Shin Udon. Don’t let the long line deter you, the wait is 100% worth it. While you wait for your order, you can watch the chefs prepare fresh udon bowls and let’s be real, nothing is sexier than watching someone handle noodles. I highly recommend the Butter Udon which is served with a soft boiled egg. It is the perfect, creamy, and warm dish the recharge your batteries. I don’t want to spoil the rest of this post, but it was the best thing I ate in Japan.

 

Burnside Café

Make your Instagram dreams a reality with a plate of fluffy Japanese pancakes from Burnside Café in Harajuku. Yes, I’m talking about those thick, jiggly pancakes you’ve seen Tastemade posting about. At Burnside, you can top your cakes with whipped cream, honey, and a variety of fresh fruit. Take some time to explore the Japanese street wear shops on Takeshita Street near Burnside Café. You are in one of the fashion capitals of the world after all!

 

HAKONE

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

Yes, a train was so memorable that it made it on this list. When you’re traveling at 200 mph on a train, the fastest you’ve ever traveled on the ground, it’s worth mentioning. We first rode the shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakone and enjoyed the quiet, clean train ride. You can either lookout the window and enjoy views of the countryside zipping by or recline your chair for a cozy nap. Guess which one I chose to do? They don’t call me Nap Queen for nothing. For longer trips, like our ride from Hakone to Kyoto, snacks and drinks were provided for purchase onboard.

 

Hakone Ropeway

You know how they say “it’s not about the destination but the journey”? Traveling to Hakone from Tokyo embodies that saying to the T! It took us 6 hours, two trains, one bullet train, a cable car, a bowl of soba, and a rope way to get to our hotel in Hakone and the journey there was beautiful! The last leg of our trip required us to ride the Hakone Ropeway. The 30 minute ride from Gora Station to Lake Ashi was filled with 360 degree views of the lush green mountains, the rising volcanic fumes of Owakudani and even the tip of Mount Fuji!

 Views from Hakone Ropeway

Views from Hakone Ropeway

 

Lake Ashi

The long journey to Hakone was 100% worth it once we laid eyes on Lake Ashi for the first time. It’s vast beauty reminded me of Crater Lake and it was funny when we found out that it is a crater lake formed on the south side of a volcano. The deep blue waters against the rich green mountainside was a beautiful site to take in after a long day of traveling. And the best way to experience Lake Ashi is by pirate boat, of course! It’s gimmicky, and super touristy but we were living for it. The boat takes you to the three different piers on the lake. My only tip would be to read the time table carefully! Don’t be like us and get stranded on the other side of the lake. Just, don’t.

 Views of Lake Ashi from the pirate ship

Views of Lake Ashi from the pirate ship

 Searching for Mount Fuji behind the clouds

Searching for Mount Fuji behind the clouds

 

Hakone Shrine

From the pirate boat, you can see the bright red gate that welcomes you to Hakone Shrine. The shrine itself is atop a flight of stairs and tucked between a forest of towering trees. If you’re not feeling the steps, head towards the entrance gate where you’ll find a nice trail that takes you along the lake. The gate itself is also the perfect spot for a photo!

 Gates of Hakone Shrine

Gates of Hakone Shrine

 

Bakery + Table

While we were waiting for our bus back to the shinkansen, we stopped by Bakery + Table for sweet bread and tea. There is a large bar facing the water in front of the café and I asked Tejinder to save us two seats there while I grabbed some treats. I came out to see Tejinder smiling and barefoot. Turns out the waterfront bar was also an onsen (natural hot spring) for your feet! After days of traveling, my feet welcomed some much needed relaxation.

 

KYOTO

Kinkakuji Temple

We learned quickly that Kyoto is filled with temples and shrines. Everywhere we turned, we’d see the bright red entrance gates. We visited a handful because they are pretty captivated but none compared to Kinkakuji Temple. The Golden Pavillion is a three story building covered in pure gold leaves and is surrounded by a go-around style garden. I was completely mesmerized by the architectural beauty of the temple. My only tip is to go early since it gets crowded quickly with tourists and school field trips.

 Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji Temple

 Walking through the bamboo grove

Walking through the bamboo grove

 

Bamboo Grove

The Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama is said to be the most beautiful grove on Earth, and it delivered. The entrance is a bit crowded but as you proceed through the trail, the crowds thin out and you’re left with beautiful bamboo trees towering over you, swaying in the wind. The leaves at the top of the trees formed a cozy tunnel over the trail.

 

Kameyama-koen Park

After walking through the Bamboo Grove, we cut through to Koen Park. It was nice to escape the crowds and wander the trails of the park without an agenda. At the end of the park, you can find a nice spot along the Katsura River. This moment was my absolute favorite part of our trip. The water was gently flowing next to the green mountainside and was filled with boats and fishermen. Sitting on the river bank with Tejinder filled me with peace and joy. And most importantly, more energy to continue exploring!

 Peace & Love from Katsura River

Peace & Love from Katsura River

 

Fushimi Inari

On our last day in Kyoto, we took the train to Fushimi Inari to walk through the famous gates. Inari is known as the god of rice and business and each of the 10,000 torii, or gates, was donated by a Japanese business. The hike up to the top of the mountain is about 2 hours but we opted to stop half way. Like the Bamboo Grove, the gates of Fushimi Inari were breathtaking. We had a lot of fun walking through each gate and taking it all in. On our way back from the gates, we enjoyed the local street food (read as more delicious yakatori) before heading out.

 Post-Fushimi Inari, Pre-Yakatori

Post-Fushimi Inari, Pre-Yakatori

 

Le Bac a Sable

Le Bac a Sable was a block away from our AirBnB in Kyoto and we passed it every day as we left exploring. I highly recommend stopping there for a breakfast filled with bread, jams, omelets, and of course, sweets. The workers were all so cheerful even at 8 in the morning. We loved Le Bac a Sable so much, we enjoyed breakfast there twice.

 

 IG dreams come true!

IG dreams come true!

Ice Roll Factory

Remember how my IG dreams came true at Burnside Café? Well, they came true again at Ice Roll Factory located in Nishiki Market. This loud and fun kiosk in the market serves up the creative ice cream rolls you’ve seen on Instagram and they love putting on a show! We ordered the cookies and cream ice cream roll and it did not disappoint. Even though it was chilly out, we enjoyed every bite of our ice cream roll!

 

OSAKA

Osaka Castle

To be honest, we were not planning on doing anything in Osaka; it was just where we were supposed to fly out of since it was close Kyoto. We had a few hours to kill before our flight so we stopped by the Osaka Castle. The Castle/Museum itself is 8 stories (stairs only) of history, relics, and sculptures. On the top floor, there is an observation deck that provides 360 degree views of Osaka and the castle grounds. The castle grounds are massive and you could spend most of the day just walking around. We opted to work our way through Forest Park before heading to the airport.

 The moat around Osaka Castle

The moat around Osaka Castle

 Last pic before heading to the airport!

Last pic before heading to the airport!

 

I was reading a fellow blogger’s latest travel post and she reflected on her trip by answering three meaningful questions: What meant the most? What would I not do again? What didn't I do that I wish I had? Having 7 full days of Tejinder meant the most. And I know that sounds corny because we were in such a beautiful place filled with history and culture and good food and here I am saying the best part of my trip was my boyfriend. But it’s the truth! I loved every minute we spent walking, talking, and enjoying the little things that come with dating your best friend. The thing we didn’t do that I wish we did was spend an extra half day in Hakone. It was such a peaceful retreat that I felt we rushed through on our way to Kyoto. And if I could leave something out, I would definitely not have taken the pirate the boat our first night in Hakone which left us stranded on the other side of the lake. Please read the time tables carefully!

Until the next adventure, 

 

xoxo, EK

Angel Island, CA

 
 Greetings from Angel Island!

Greetings from Angel Island!

Date Traveled: 7/4/17

Hi friends,

Is it just me or did June go by way too fast? June was such a busy month! Between a quick trip to LA with Tejinder, SF Design Week, and a bachelorette party in Malibu, I think I only had one weekend in the city. Things calmed down right before 4th of July which I was grateful for. Tejinder and I decided to spend the holiday weekend hiking on Angel Island.

Angel Island is a 1 sq. mile island perfectly positioned between San Francisco and Marin. The island, which is considered a CA Historical Landmark,  housed military forts and quarantine stations but is well known for being the “Ellis Island of the West” due to the Angel Island Immigration Station on the northeast shore.

 My favorite adventure partner!

My favorite adventure partner!

 Leaving the city

Leaving the city

After a very windy ferry ride, we landed on the island and began our 6-mile loop. I know, a 6-mile trek doesn’t sound very relaxing, but it can be if you travel at a leisurely pace. The perimeter loop is a paved road that is relatively flat. It is the most popular trail on the island due to the variety of viewpoints the trail provides. On a clear day, you can see San Francisco, both bridges, and Alcatraz at one vantage point. There are also a bunch of benches and picnic tables scattered around the island for when your stomach starts to grumble or the view sweeps you off your feet. For the extremely adventurous at heart, Angel Island is home to nine – yes, nine - campgrounds. If hiking is not your thing, there are open air tram tours that’ll take you on a guided tour of the island. We considered hopping on one a few times during our hike.

 One of the many rest stops on the perimeter loop

One of the many rest stops on the perimeter loop

 A row of military homes on the perimeter loop

A row of military homes on the perimeter loop

Because Angel Island served so many purposes back in the day, a lot of the original buildings have remained on the island. It felt like we were going back in time as we walked through old mess halls and administration buildings. Do remember to be respectful of the space because 1) these buildings are extremely old and 2) some of the park rangers live in the remaining military homes.

There is a tiny beach in front of the Angel Island Immigration Station where we decided to refuel and relax before heading back to the ferry. When I first moved to the city, Tejinder and I came to Angel Island and took a tour of the detention center. Being back there, I was filled with the same numbness I felt when I first learned how the Chinese immigrants were treated on the island. From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island detained, inspected, and examined approximately one million immigrants, most of whom were from the Asia Pacific. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which only allowed Chinese merchants, clergy, diplomats, teachers, and students to migrate to America, there was a lot of discrimination against Chinese immigrants and many were interrogated for upwards of 20 months before finding out their fate. Families were separated, immigrants sat through hours of interrogations, and health conditions were very poor. Sitting on the beach on Angel Island, I reflected on what these immigrants must have gone through – packing up their lives, saying good bye to loved ones they might never see again, navigating a foreign land they’ve never seen – to pursue the sought-after “American dream”.

 The beach in front of the Angel Island Immigration Station

The beach in front of the Angel Island Immigration Station

 The remainder of the dock that welcomed over a million immigrants

The remainder of the dock that welcomed over a million immigrants

As the daughter of immigrant parents, I witnessed the sacrifices my parents made for my brother and me, and it all started with the biggest sacrifice of saying good bye to their lives in Iran and making their way to America. I am proud of what my parents have accomplished and thankful for their courage and fearlessness all those years ago.

After finishing the loop, Tejinder and I split a beer at the Angel Island Café before hopping on the ferry home. We had a lot of fun walking around the island and spending some much-needed quality time together.

Traveling is a passion of mine because it is an opportunity for the world to challenge my way of thinking. No matter the distance, new experiences, like walking through old military buildings and sitting on the dock that welcomed over a million immigrants, teach me new things about the world around me. And I absolutely love sharing these experiences with Tejinder. Lucky for us, we have a lot more adventures awaiting us this year.

Until next time,

 

xoxo, EK

Ashland + Crater Lake, OR

 
 Greetings from Crater Lake!

Greetings from Crater Lake!

Dates Traveled: 5/27/17 – 5/29/17

Have you ever had the urge to hit the road without an agenda just to see where you end up? I was feeling exactly that about a month ago when I asked Tejinder if he’d like to go on a road trip for Memorial Day Weekend. I had this consuming desire to just get away from the familiarities of my life to clear my head and recharge my batteries. Thankfully, Tejinder, who is always down for an adventure, was totally behind the idea and on a warm Saturday morning, we began our journey to Crater Lake, Oregon.

From the Bay Area, Crater Lake is about a 7-hour drive up Highway 5 which is doable in one day if road trips are your thing. Tejinder and I are road trip pros after years of driving to and from Santa Barbara during college. Here are a few tips we learned over the years to help pass time on long road trips:

  • Play the license plate game – spot as many different states via license plates on the road and try to call them out before your partner does. We spotted 29 different states during our trip!
  • Listen to an audiobook – listening to your favorite book is a fun and easy way to help pass time on the road. Tejinder and I decided to listen to the Harry Potter books, which I never read growing up, and now I’m obsessed with them!
  • Pack yummy snacks – High protein snacks and fresh fruit are my go-to’s for long car rides. Well, that and cheez-its :)

Lodging is a little tricky at the national park itself so we decided to stay in Ashland which is about 2-hours south of Crater Lake. You’ve probably heard of Ashland in the same context as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Along with being home to many theater companies, Ashland offers farm to table restaurants, art galleries, and historic buildings. For two people from the city, it was the perfect escape!

After checking into our hotel, we headed downtown to Lithia Park for a pre-dinner stroll along the Ashland Creek. It was really hot that day so the mist from the creek was very much welcomed. It was so peaceful walking through the greenery, hand in hand.

Lithia Park

We made our way to Standing Stone Brewery for dinner where I enjoyed the most delicious salmon salad. The salmon was perfectly cooked, balanced the scales between savory and sweet, and melted in my mouth. It was one of those meals you almost wish wouldn’t end! Standing Stone is a sustainable restaurant and brewery with a long-term goal of operating with zero net energy use and zero waste. Now that’s a mission I can get behind!

It’s impossible to go to Ashland without seeing a show at one their many theaters so Tejinder and I grabbed tickets to Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s All Night Strut after dinner. The show was absolutely electric! I couldn’t stop smiling while the performers sang and danced across the stage. My feet were tapping the whole time! I highly suggest ordering the theater’s famous Dick Hay Pie – an Oreo cookie crust filled with layers of vanilla and peanut butter ice cream. It was the sweetest way to end a great day!

We got up bright and early the next day to head towards Rim Village at Crater Lake. The road there was mesmerizing! Trees dwarfed the road as you drove through the national forest. Once inside the park, we found parking near Crate Lake Lodge and began wandering. We found rocking chairs behind the lodge where we took in the breathtaking view. The lake was perfectly blue and completely still which gave me a much-needed sense of calmness. I felt so small, and my problems felt even smaller. Sitting on that rocking chair was a very humbling experience that we both enjoyed.

 The view from Rim Village

The view from Rim Village

 Hiking through the snow!

Hiking through the snow!

 Taking in the view at Crater Lake Lodge

Taking in the view at Crater Lake Lodge

 Enjoying the view of Wizard Island

Enjoying the view of Wizard Island

Before you head up to Crater Lake, here are a few things you should know:

  • Pack food and water – there is a restaurant at the lodge but it is pricey. We had a few leftover snacks and water from the day before which held us over.
  • Go early – we got to park around 9 AM and left closer to 3 PM. The traffic entering the park at 3 was so ridiculous that cars started turning around.
  • Pack sunscreen – believe it or not, there was a ton of snow up there which meant we were more susceptible to sunburn. Thankfully, Tejinder packed sunscreen and saved the day!
  • Double check that your trail is open – there was so much snow when we went that only 3 miles of trails were open to hikers without snow shoes. The staff at Crater Lake Lodge showed us a quick trail that offered great views.
  • Be in the moment – put away your professional camera, close out of Snapchat, step away from your browser, and seriously take a moment to think about where you are. You are witnessing one of Mother Nature’s many treasures and I can guarantee that no IG filter can make it more beautiful. Take a deep breath and simply enjoy the view.

We capped the day with dinner at Pie + Vine – a cute Italian café serving handmade pasta and wood fired pizza. We walked off our food babies with a nice stroll before heading to our hotel for lights out.

Exploring Crater Lake was enjoyable but the real highlight was the road trip there and back. Car rides with Tejinder are very near and dear to my heart since that is how we got to know each other. When we were in college, I would offer him a ride up to the Bay Area and asked for two things in return: 1) he pitches in for gas and 2) he supplies the tunes. Every time we made the trek up north together, we would listen to the mixtapes he made and talk about our lives, families, dreams, childhoods, everything! I still have every mixtape he’s ever made me and can’t help but smile whenever we hit the road together. After all, I fell for my best friend somewhere on the 101!

Now it’s your turn – where is your favorite place to visit when you want to recharge your batteries? Do you have any tips when it comes to long road trips? Leave a comment with your favorite places and road trip tips down below!

Until next time,

 

xoxo, EK

 

Napa, CA

Dates traveled: 3/25/17- 3/26/17

My best friend is getting married!

Melanie and I met a few weeks into freshman year and I won’t tell you the whole story because it’s a pretty embarrassing story but, the point of it is that I met the person who would become my best friend for going on 10 years. The last decade has been filled with Starbucks frappuccinos (something neither of us drink now), lunch from El Super Burrito, trips to visit each other during college, BBM messages (when they were actually cool), graduations, lessons in adulting, first loves, and more life milestones than I can count. The most beautiful thing about Melanie is that if she loves you, she will go to no end to make everything better. Whether we were 300+ miles away or oceans apart, she always made herself available to do whatever it took to make me feel better and loved. Melanie, this world is brighter and more beautiful place because of the endless amount of love you give to those you care about.

Melanie met Patrick when we were juniors in college and it didn’t take me very long to realize he was the one. When you see the two of them together you just think “could there be two people more meant for each other?” The answer is no, there really can’t be a couple that competes with the special bond they have. So, when the fateful day came that Patrick asked Melanie to spend forever with him, I was bursting with tears of joy! And when Melanie asked me to stand by her on her wedding day as a bridesmaid, well I just nearly lost it. I mean, my best friend is marrying the man of her dreams!!

But before the walk down the aisle, we celebrated her final days of being a single woman with a bachelorette party in Napa. On a warm day in March, Melanie and her entourage of 9 girls took to Napa for a fun-filled weekend of laughs, delicious food, oh, and lots of wine!

Where we slept:  

The Westin Verasa - Katie, the MoH and the bride’s sister, hooked it up with a two-bedroom suite at the Westin Verasa. It was the perfect place to throw on a comfy robe, watch Bridesmaids, and put our feet up after a day of wine tasting.

The location of The Westin Verasa could not have been any better. It is walking distance to downtown Napa where you will find boutique shops and restaurants. It is also close to the Napa River which is the perfect place for a post-dinner walk.

The hotel is located across the Napa Wine Train which you could use to get from one winery to another if you do not have a DD. We opted to rent a party bus, because of course we would, and went with a local favorite, Deb from Driven In Napa Valley. Deb is the absolute best; she is professional, friendly, and knows how to have a good time. She has amazing connections and knows all the best spots. And, she’s a great photographer!

What we sipped:

Domaine Chandon - We started the day with champagne tasting at the beautiful Domaine Chandon. Is there a better way to start the day than with bubbles?

At Chandon, there was a lovely creek that went through the main entrance and breathtaking views of the countryside. The tasting room was pretty busy the day we were there but the space is so massive that it didn’t feel crowded. There are benches, tables and chairs scattered throughout the campus, all providing a fun and intimate experience. 

 Since we were a rather large group, we decided on two bottles of champagne, Brut and Rose, and found a nice spot under the trees to enjoy them.

 Views at Domaine Chandon

Views at Domaine Chandon

Andretti Winery - Our second stop was at Andretti Winery. You guys, this place was a stunner! It reminded me a lot of the old Spanish style homes with the courtyard in the center, complete with a fountain. At Andretti, you can go to the main tasting room or head to the house in the back for private tastings and views of the countryside. We tried a selection of different red and white wines while laughing over our favorite Melanie and Patrick stories. It was the perfect way to end our day in Napa.

 Andretti Winery

Andretti Winery

Where we dined:

Napkins - After Chandon, we went to Napkins for lunch before heading to our next winery. Napkins is a local bar + grill located in downtown Napa that serves American classics with a global flair.  You can enjoy your food and wine pairing either indoors on our their heated patio. Their menu was pretty meat heavy but Napkins has no problem accommodating dietary restrictions and provided menu recommendations and alternatives to suit my vegetarian needs. The atmosphere was young and fun, ideal for a day with the girls.

Eiko - Sushi is my comfort food so you know I was excited for dinner at Eiko! Some people find comfort in mac and cheese, I find comfort in spider rolls. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.

The moment you walk into Eiko, you are greeted by a modern interior, Japanese influenced dining, and an overwhelming “I’m so cool for being here” vibe. You know which vibe I’m talking about. My favorite part was the Japanese characters that were wall papered up to the ceiling above the sushi bar.

From the design to the menu, Eiko provided a complete experience. They offered the usual rolls and entrees along with their signature dishes and variations on Japanese classics. And since our hotel was walking distance from the restaurant, we walked off our sushi induced food-babies on our way back to the hotel.  

 Post sushi walk along the Napa River

Post sushi walk along the Napa River

The Corner- What’s the best way to end a girls weekend? With a morning-after brunch, of course! We grabbed a table at The Corner, a local and tourist favorite located downtown along the Napa Riverfront. A restaurant by day and lounge by night, The Corner is serving brunch favorites with a Modern American twist and pairs them with hand-crafted cocktails, wines, and spirits. The interior of the restaurant is stunning. The exposed brick, tall ceilings, and beautiful behind-the-bar display was breathtaking even at 10 in the morning.

 The beautiful bar at The Corner

The beautiful bar at The Corner

And least we forget the wine store! Close your eyes and picture a library. Now imagine all the books in the library were replaced with wines from around the world. You are now picturing The Corner’s wine store. Bottles of wine from local California wineries along with world-class fine and rare wine collections are housed inside a climate controlled cellar. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Melanie’s bachelorette party was very true to who she is. The low key weekend was filled with good vibes, good people, and great wine. It was the perfect break from reality for some much needed girl time.

 #BrideTribe

#BrideTribe

Now all there is left to is watch my best friend walk down the aisle to say “I do” to the man of her dreams. And dance the night away, of course!

 

xoxo,

EK

Kauai, HI: South + West Shores

 Greetings from the Waimea Canyon in Kauai!

Greetings from the Waimea Canyon in Kauai!

Dates Traveled: 12/26/16 – 12/31/16

Hello, dear friends!

As promised in my Kauai Part 1 post, I am back to share with you all the food and adventure there is to enjoy in the South and West Shores of Kauai. I loved every inch of Kauai but the South and West Shores were my absolute favorite with their relaxing beaches, delicious food, and fun hikes! Our time spent exploring Poipu, in particular, is my favorite memory of Kauai by far. 

After a day of hiking the North Shore, Tejinder and I decided to spend our second day on the island doing absolutely nothing on shores of Poipu Beach. We drove from Kapa’a to Poipu a few times and the road there is simply beautiful. Rain or shine, it was one of those roads that made me stop and marvel at the beauty that was around me.

 Soaking up the sun in Poipu!

Soaking up the sun in Poipu!

Known as a local town, Poipu is best known for their golden sand crescent beaches where visitors can enjoy snorkeling, swimming, boogie-boarding, surfing, and of course, relaxing. It was the perfect place for us to rest our legs after a long hike. Poipu Beach itself offered lots of parking, picnic tables, and plenty of sun-kissed sand to lay on. The shoreline was clean and, though the waves were a little rough the day we went, Poipu Beach is a great spot for kids. Pro Tip: if you have swim shoes, bring them with you because there are some rocks on the ocean bed that could cut up your feet.

Tejinder and I found a spot on the sand and posted up for a few hours reading our books and enjoying the view. It was the epitome of mad chilling.

 Bluffs of Poipu Beach

Bluffs of Poipu Beach

 A momma and her chicks!

A momma and her chicks!

I realized I haven’t mentioned this yet but Kauai has large population of roosters and they enjoy roaming around anywhere and everywhere. They don’t want your food or to bother you but rather just want to say “Aloha”! 

After relishing in our laziness for a while, it was time for lunch so we hopped into Sheeba, our Jeep, and made our way to Makai Sushi. There was a bit of a wait when we got there but at that point, we were so used to “island-time” we did not mind at all. I ordered the unagi roll because I love unagi, and Tejinder enjoyed his spicy tuna roll. Each roll was pretty sizable and were topped with the trifecta of sauces: unagi teriyaki, spicy yogurt, and wasabi aioli. There was some serious umami action happening!

 Talk about a sushi roll!

Talk about a sushi roll!

Not too far from Poipu is the small town of Old Koloa. We walked the strip of souvenir shops and picked up a few things to take home with us before heading back to Kapa’a.

In Poipu, we also found a beautiful coast line hiking trail that lead to a cave! Starting at Shipwreck Beach, we followed the coast line for about 2 miles until we reached Makauwahi cave. We literally had to crawl into the cave through a tiny whole on the side which we would’ve missed had it not been for the tiny sign marking the entrance. The cave itself is actually a sinkhole and offers a glimpse of the island’s history. Tejinder and I joined a free guided tour where we saw interesting fossils and artifacts while appreciating the magnificence of Mother Nature’s ability to create a sinkhole that once housed wildlife and foliage that has now gone extinct.

 Views along the trail to Makauwahi Cave

Views along the trail to Makauwahi Cave

A few helpful tips to know beforehand:

  • Stay along the coast. The trailhead is super confusing and there are no marked signs in the beginning so your safest bet is to stay along the coastline. 
  • Where high socks to avoid sandy feed. The first part of the trail is on sand and we all know how sand can get everywhere.
  • Don’t wear your favorite hat on the trail. Since it is along the coast, it is super windy.
  • Be sure to apply sunscreen as the trail is mostly exposed.
  • Be mindful of what you leave behind. The trail cuts through sacred lands so be sure to bring all your trash back with you.
 When your hiking trail suddenly ends in the middle of a gold course.

When your hiking trail suddenly ends in the middle of a gold course.

 Makauwahi Cave

Makauwahi Cave

On our second to last morning, Tejinder and I actually slept in which is something we rarely ever do. Ahh, the island life! Our day started out with a sweet and filling macadamia nut sticky buns from Passion Bakery Café. Oh man, I could eat those sticky buns all day! After fueling up on sugary goodness, we packed Sheeba up for the long drive to Waimea Canyon.

Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific which is something I cannot confirm because I have not been to the Grand Canyon…yet. Nevertheless, the expansive views of the canyon at the look out spot will simply take your breath away. Pro Tip: be sure to bring a jacket with you because at 3,400 feet above sea level, it is super windy up there!

 Waimea Canyon lookout

Waimea Canyon lookout

After snapping a few pics and taking in the views, we made our way down to the town of Waimea when we saw a sign for a Market Sale. While Tejinder was shopping for souvenirs, I followed my nose to find the Shrimp Station where they prepared shrimp in every way you can imagine you'd think Bubba was in the kitchen. I ordered the shrimp burger with fries and it came with papaya ginger tartar sauce. The sauce was the perfect blend of tangy, spicy, and sweet notes that made my taste buds do a happy dance. Shrimp Station, if you are reading this, please bottle up your papaya ginger tartar sauce so and send it to me ASAP!

 The best thing to happen to shrimp and tartar sauce!

The best thing to happen to shrimp and tartar sauce!

A quick two minute drive from the Shrimp Station is the Waimea Pier. We walked along the pier enjoying every minute of our time there while also trying to forget we had to go back to reality.

 Waimea Pier

Waimea Pier

I was reflecting on it recently and I think Kauai was the absolutely perfect way to end 2016. It was a really rough year for me as I learned to live with my anxiety. If you never had to fight the battle against mental illness, let me tell you, it is really exhausting to manage your internal and external demons while living a “normal” life. During our time in Kauai, I was more relaxed and at ease than I had been all year long. I almost forgot what it was like to live without worry and it was beautiful. I brought that energy of ease and relaxation with me into 2017 and can happily say that I am better today than I thought I could ever be. I have a hunch that 2017 is going to be a great year and I am excited to take you with me for the ride!

 

xoxo, EK

Kauai, HI: North + East Shores

 Greetings from Kauai's North Shore

Greetings from Kauai's North Shore

Dates Traveled: 12/26/16 – 12/31/16

Happy New Year, friends! We made it to 2017; a bit battered and bruised but we made it!

If you’ve read my Mendocino post, you know that Tejinder and I have an annual tradition of taking an end of the year trip together. It is our time to fall off the radar, enjoy a few days without a schedule, and just mad chill. For our third annual trip, we starting researching locations that would: 1) be by the water, 2) be good for hiking, and 3) have great food. After doing a bit of research, Kauai felt like the perfect vacation spot so we packed our bags for a week on the Garden Island.

Since the week of relaxing and exploring Kauai was simply too long for one post, I have broken up our trip into two parts. First up, the North and East Shores!

The day after Christmas, Tejinder and I met bright and early at Oakland Airport for our flight to Lihue. We were fueled by excitement and Starbucks when we landed in Kauai a little before noon. Upon landing, we enjoyed the cool island breeze while we waited to rent our car from Alamo. My advice to anyone renting a car in Kauai is: 1) rent a Jeep and 2) go through Kauai Jeep Rental for the best rate. We reserved a two door Jeep Wrangler through their website and it was one of the best decisions we made! Reserving and picking up our car was so easy and in no time, we were on our way to Kapa’a to check into our hotel.

Tejinder and I were both pretty ravenous at this point. Okay, I was the ravenous one but I was ravenous for the both of us! We made our way to Bubba’s Burger in Kapa’a. Bubba’s has been serving no-frill mouthwatering burgers since 1936 and they have no plans of stopping. Their veggie burger was so juicy and if you are vegetarian you will understand how unheard of that is! Paired with fries, a banana shake, and an ocean view, it was the perfect first meal on the island.

 The juiciest veggie burger at Bubba's

The juiciest veggie burger at Bubba's

We spent the rest of the evening unwinding and unpacking before driving to Safeway to buy a few snacks for the week. Have you ever heard the phrase “Island-time”? It is a time zone in which literally no one is in a rush, ever! No one is ever in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything. Tejinder and I got a serious dose of “island-time” on our way to Safeway because the speed limit on the highway we were on was 45 mph. We were both baffled! For those people who are like me and have no idea how to do anything slowly, don’t worry, island-time will grow on you.

On our first full day on the island, Tejinder and I woke up rested and ready to explore Northern Kauai! We packed the car with water and snacks before heading to the North Shore. But first, bagels. Tejinder and I stopped at Java Kai for breakfast. This cute café on the east side of the island lives by the not so subtle motto “Drink Coffee or Die” and they also serve killer bagels, tea, sandwiches, and smoothies. Tejinder ordered an onion bagel with cream cheese, tomato, and pesto. You guys, the pesto changed everything. It was the unexpected thing you look for in a regular bagel and cream cheese breakfast. Java Kai has a very cool vibe, and even cooler apparel which you can buy from their online shop. 

After fueling up our bodies, we hopped into Sheeba (yes, we named our Jeep) and started on the one-hour drive to Ke’e Beach to hike the Na Pali Coast. The drive there was absolutely beautiful. It was like a scene from Jurassic Park or Lost everywhere you turned.

 Views from the Na Pali Coast trail

Views from the Na Pali Coast trail

The Na Pali Coast trail we chose was a 4 mile round trip trek that ended at Hanakapiai Beach. It rained in the morning so the normally dirt trail was pretty darn muddy. The trail itself is fairly steep with a few twist and turns. There are plenty of waterfalls, creeks, and lush greenery to enjoy as you make your way through the hike. And the views of the coast were just breathtaking! The trail hugs the coastline so we constantly had this amazing view of crystal clear waters as far as our eyes can see.

A few helpful tips to know beforehand: 

  • Bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty because there is a lot of mud and you will slip a few times and you will be upset if you take you new pair of Nikes.
  • Bring an extra pair of shoes to wear after the hike. Again, your shoes will get muddy.
  • Get there fairly early because parking is limited and you cannot park on the side of the road. We arrived around 9 AM and there was plenty of parking. When we left around noon, it was completely full.
 Our muddy shoes after hiking the Na Pali Coast trail

Our muddy shoes after hiking the Na Pali Coast trail

After our hike, we rested up at Ke’e Beach. The family friendly beach is the perfect spot to relax and soak your feet in the clear water. There is a small coral reef you can snorkel around in if you remember to bring your gear.

 Relaxing at Ke'e Beach

Relaxing at Ke'e Beach

 Cliffs of Na Pali Coast

Cliffs of Na Pali Coast

We swam in the salty ocean water for a bit and relaxed on the beach before packing up Sheeba to go to Hanalei Bay. Hanalei is truly a beautiful place with an incredible beach that offers expansive views of the bay. There is a pier kids were jumping off of and families were enjoying tacos while taking in the spectacular views of the coast line. Since it is a bay, the waves were a lot calmer which makes it a great spot for paddle boarding or surfing classes.

 Sheeba and her Captain

Sheeba and her Captain

 Taking in the beauty of Hanalei Bay

Taking in the beauty of Hanalei Bay

From Hanalei, we made our way to Kilauea, which is a few miles south. We grabbed lunch at Kilauea Fish Market – a quaint grub spot serving whatever fresh catch that came in that morning. And when they run out of the morning’s catch, they close up for the day. Their portions are large so come hungry!

Five minutes away from the Kilauea Fish Market is the Kilauea Light House. Be sure to stop here and check out the awe-inspiring views of the ocean and Kauai coast. While we were there walking off our food babies, a very nice man named Jeff took our photos with the light house. 

 Kilauea Fish Market

Kilauea Fish Market

 Shout out to Jeff at Kilauea Light House!

Shout out to Jeff at Kilauea Light House!

After a day filled with exploring the North Shore, Tejinder and I were both exhausted. Our night ended with a trip to the ABC Store which, if you’ve never been before, is like the 7/11 of Hawaii. ABC Stores are everywhere! They are a great places to buy souvenirs, snacks, and $2 wine (sorry Mom). Be sure to save your receipts because if you spend $100, they will give you a free gift! 

We stayed at Kauai Shores Hotel located on the East Shore of the island. The hotel was at full capacity the week we were there but it was so quiet you would not have believed it. The private beach is a short walk away and in the rare event you get tired of laying on the beach, you can lay out by one of their two pools. Our room was clean and the staff was extremely friendly. It was literally the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. Note: their WiFi is a bit spotty but you’ll be too busy sipping mai tai’s on the beach to notice. Because of its central location on the East side of the island, we were able to visit the many restaurants the East Shore has to offer and have listed a few of our favorite spots below.

Trees Lounge – Never would I have guessed that Kauai is where I would find some delicious Cajun food! The Trees Lounge is a lively place to enjoy some serious creole classics, $6 martini’s and live music from the one and only Tom Selleck. Or at least a talented native musician named Tom Selleck. Be sure to finish your meal with their macadamia nut brownie!

Wailua Shave Ice – Wailua Shave Ice is the spot to get some of the best, most flavorful (aka non-syrupy) shaved ice on the island. Their truck can be found on the East Shore serving up large portions of their tasty desserts. I will never be able to look at ice again after tasting mouth watering deliciousness of their Da Almond Joy. It is the perfect way to cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth.

 Cooling down at Wailua's!

Cooling down at Wailua's!

Kauai Bakery – On Tejinder’s island to-do list was to eat a malassada. We searched everyday we were on the island and finally found them at Kauai Bakery. Malassada’s are basically the Portuguese equivalent to a donut but without the hole. But if the cream and chocolate filling won’t help you forget the missing hole, the sugar coating sure will! Paired with a cup of coffee or tea and you’ve got yourself a sweet and scrumptious snack.

Mark’s Place – Also on Tejinder’s list was a lunch plate at Mark’s. Located in Lihue, Mark’s Place whips up classic Hawaiian plate lunches, bentos, and salads. I will caution that their do not have many vegetarian options but if you are like me, and are okay with eating fish, get the sushi salad. It basically is carb lovers dream! The salad consisted of sushi rice, flakes of nori, wantons stuffed with crab, and kimichi bean sprouts. I was a little bummed at first that they did not have any veggie options but after trying their sushi salad, I wasn’t even mad.

Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of our Kauai trip where I will take you along with me as we discover the South and West Shores!

xoxo, EK

Los Osos, CA

 #JuliusSeesHer2016

#JuliusSeesHer2016

Dates Traveled: 8/26/16 - 8/28/16

I have heard people say that traveling for a wedding isn’t considered a vacation. Well folks, I think that is pure [vegetarian] bologna! In fact, Tejinder and I attended the wedding of our good friends, Melody and Ryan, in Los Osos and had an amazing time roaming the coast and of course, eating along the way. 

We gently woke up on Saturday, a bit past 9:30, to the sound of birds chirping. Our AirBnb was a tucked away cottage in the Los Osos hills. It was the perfect size for two people with a comfy bed (topped with lots of pillows - my fave!), a full kitchen, spacious bathroom and walk in closet. It was made for a relaxing retreat! After prying the blankets off, Tejinder started unpacking his duffel bag while I brewed some tea to enjoy on the patio. After getting our stuff in order, we headed to The Back Bay Café for breakfast. 

The Back Bay Café is tiny waterfront spot with indoor/outdoor seating in Baywood Park. They are open daily serving breakfast and lunch classics like yogurt with fresh fruit, bagel and cream cheese and BLTs. Their coffee and tea menu attracts both locals and visitors alike. Tejinder ordered a breakfast burrito while I enjoyed a hearty veggie scramble with tea. My eggs were loaded with fresh veggies like broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini and asparagus. After breakfast, we walked along the water to ward off the food coma. 

 Breakfast at The Back Bay Cafe, yum!

Breakfast at The Back Bay Cafe, yum!

We were walking merrily, enjoying the view, minding our own business when all of the sudden this siren started blaring for literally 3 minutes straight! Naturally, we thought it was an emergency but no one around us seemed alarmed. People were going about their lives like this deafening siren wasn’t shrieking blood murder. We headed back to our car as quickly as possible because, honestly we were scared and confused but mostly scared. We thought it was either a tsunami warning, some sort of CIA/military alarm and we even considered that we were in an alternate reality like the Truman Show. All valid ideas, of course. 

It wasn’t until we got to Carlock’s Bakery that we were informed that it was the town’s annual alarm testing. I was too shaken up to ask what the alarm was being testing for. Instead, Tejinder and I each ordered a donut - an old fashioned for me and a blueberry glazed donut for Tejinder- and proceeded to resume our merriment. The wedding was in a couple of hours so we headed back to our AirBnB to get ready. 

Melody and Ryan’s wedding was absolutely beautiful. Every single detail was thought through to make their day exponentially special. It was a lovely day to be in the presence of the pure, unconditional love they share. Since I sit next to Melody at work, I saw bits and pieces of her wedding planning and it we mesmerizing to see it all come together. Especially since she planned and designed every detail in less than a year with a full time job. The girl is a unicorn, a beautiful unicorn! Melody is currently doing a series on her blog where she is talking about the makings of her wedding from creating DIY tote bags to picking out the right stock for the invites. 

 Tejinder and I enjoying a limited edition Wedding Saison, the "I do" brew!

Tejinder and I enjoying a limited edition Wedding Saison, the "I do" brew!

Tejinder and I had a lot of fun drinking their “I do” brew, catching up with old friends, and dancing the night away.  Melody and Ryan even had Slo Mama Sweets, an old fashioned ice cream truck company, serve frozen treats in the place of cake. We especially enjoyed that part!

 SloMama's next top model, just kidding!

SloMama's next top model, just kidding!

The next morning, I woke up in a bit of a funk but forced myself out of bed to pack up and check out. We left our amazing AirBnB to go to Spooner’s Cove Beach before heading back to the bay. The fishermen were bringing in their kayaks and rods when we arrived to the beach. Parents enjoyed the coastal sun as their kids chased the waves on the shore. I sat in the sand, quietly enjoying the view and taking in the salty taste of the air. If you read my Mendocino post, you know how much calmness the water brings me. 

 A fisherman's kayak at Spooner's Cove

A fisherman's kayak at Spooner's Cove

Once our tummy’s started grumbling we headed back into town to Celia’s Garden café. This popular breakfast spot is locally owned by a beautiful, lively woman named Celia who makes the most delicious apricot jam I’ve ever tasted. It is the right amount of sweetness, a hint of savory and, if you eat as much of it as I did, a wee bit of tartness. 

We enjoyed our breakfasts, and the last bit of vacation, before heading north towards reality.

 

Xoxo, EK